Christmas and New Year. What a wonderful time of year! Mugs of hot mulled wine, sitting round the fire, wearing novelty jumpers, shopping, eating and seeing friends and family. Many people take this period to spend time reflecting on the year gone by, be it positively or negatively, reviewing their successes and failures (or opportunities to improve), what they learnt about themselves and what more they could have done. Millions of people take all this reflection and review into the construction of New Year Resolutions, usually to either stop a bad habit, or to start a new positive habit.
These bad/good habits often revolve around the ‘big 3’ of losing weight or quitting smoking or consuming less alcohol. Sometimes, people resolve to achieve all three at once! Unfortunately though, 88% of all resolutions end in failure.1 Why? Usually, because of three key factors:
Lack of mental preparation to conquer doubt
Incorrect motivators i.e. using guilt or fear
To counter these factors and turn them on their head, I would humbly offer the following suggestions:
Make resolutions or goals more realistic, specific and achievable
Although tempting to resolve numerous areas, it helps the mind to focus on 1 – 3 areas to work on for change; in fact I would go one step further and suggest to pick just one area and make a commitment to achieve that goal.
Do not make your resolution so absurdly tough that in your heart you know you will never achieve it. For example, resolving to visit the gym 5 times a week when you plainly know you cannot fit it around family, work and other commitments is completely unrealistic. Why not take the time to analyse your schedule, see if you can block out time for it and commit to once or twice a week. The increase in confidence from exercise and knowing you have kept a resolution are more important to making long term changes part of a habit. Remember, small steps!
Finally, be specific with your resolution. Do you want to completely quit smoking or cut down by 50%? Remember to be honest with yourself, listen to what your body and your subconscious is telling you. Again, if you know in your heart (or your gut!) you are not going to quit (you have not yet committed to the change) then do not resolve to quit smoking! You will only fail and be hard on yourself.
‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ – as Benjamin Franklin said. However this is where mental preparation, building internal resources and using visualisation techniques are very powerful in reaching and achieving that one resolution or goal you have focused on. For example, seeing yourself as free from the hold smoking has on you, breaking free from chains, or running a 10K in the summer are much more powerful images for the mind to hold onto and be attracted to. Planting powerful suggestions like these in the subconscious has been shown to have very successful and long term benefits.
You are doomed to failure by motivating yourself by guilt and fear. For the large majority of people, the worse you feel about yourself, the less likely you are to reach and attain your resolution. Forming a resolution to quit smoking, quit the booze or increase exercise in order to reduce the chance of a heart attack is not the correct method, and has low odds of success, because now you have the fear of a potential heart attack distracting the mind. However, following on from the bullet above, using positive imagery of yourself in the future, seeing yourself not depending on cigarettes, or fatty food, or booze is much more motivational for the brain to attach to. Think of it like encouraging a child’s behaviour – when you beg and plead with them to stop doing something, it only encourages them more. Our brains are not negatively motivated, they are motivated to do positive things. So rather than resolving to quit smoking, you might want to suggest to yourself to look forward to experiencing a wonderful feeling of pride and satisfaction as you become free of tobacco.
Hypnosis and the use of suggestion has been documented widely for the positive effects it can have on people, from relaxation techniques to helping people reach their goals and new year resolutions; in effect, helping people make a change. Before even meeting a client, it is imperative they have the motivation and desire to make a positive change in their life – in this way, they will get the most results from their hypnotherapy. Even the most talented therapist will struggle to get results from someone who is uncommitted and has not even sold themselves the concept of change. Once that commitment has been gained from the client, work can begin.
One must remember, a lot of positive change can come from hypnosis and relaxation, even without the therapeutic angle. Getting the client to relax, let go, lose the tension in the body, and giving them powerful hypnotic and post-hypnotic suggestion can have dramatic benefits for people, without the need for a full therapy session (this can be useful for clients who want to make changes but do not want the therapy). Hypnosis is often defined as a natural state of mind with an extraordinary quality of relaxation, and with heightened sensitivity to stimuli of the 5 senses. Putting people in a trance has very positive benefits for the body, reinvigorating and refreshing it, allowing the body and mind to relax deeper in a fraction of the time you spend sleeping at night.
Naturally though, the therapy portion of hypnotherapy (which can take the large majority of a session) is just as crucial in opening up the client, building that relationship, getting them to confront their behaviours, understand where those behaviours come from, and giving themselves permission to not have to continue behaving in that way. In these scenarios the hypnotherapist is the guide, figuratively holding the client’s hand as they navigate their own way through their mind, but also providing challenge to the client, and if need be confrontation, if it helps move the client toward positive change. The therapy portion alone can be very liberating for people, especially for men who tend to ‘bottle things up’ and not discussing their feelings and emotions. Therefore, coupling together therapy with hypnosis can be very powerful and have dramatic changes for people, in relatively short periods of time.
There is growing use of hypnotherapy across many applications and conditions people may be experiencing, from quitting smoking and weight loss, to anxiety and stress, to medical conditions like pain management or IBS. If you think you might need help with setting and reaching personal goals or resolutions for 2014, or if you have any questions from this article, do not hesitate to contact Feel Good Hypnotherapy.
Lewis Tullett is Founder and Therapist at Feel Good Hypnotherapy.